Every week, my mom sends us a letter containing newspaper comics that she has found interesting over the past few days and updates about what’s going on with her life.

Many times, these comics are humorous and often involve lawyers behaving badly or dogs doing endearing things.

Last week, though, was a different story. As we were processing the mail that had accumulated while we were visiting Sheila’s family in DC, Sheila came across the following comic and had to put it down because she was about to start crying:

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Shortly thereafter, I read the same comic and I actually did tear up a bit.

Most of you who have read this blog already know that the real star of the blog is our pup Butters. I’m pretty convinced that the reason why I was selected to be an Official Blogger for the 2013 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon was because the selection committee knew that people would at least check the blog for cute pictures of Butters even if they didn’t like my story.

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Butters wasn’t always the lively, impish, silly, brave, and affectionate dog that you know, though.

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When we first met Butters, he was extremely shy and timid. He wouldn’t even come over to us when we went to the private room at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter. The dog that is now known as Butters came into our home with fleas, kennel cough, severely matted hair, and two shaved sides that highlighted the fact that he was pretty underweight and malnourished. Oh, and did I mention the fact that he is allergic to grain, which means that he can’t traditional dog food? (We didn’t find that out until a year later.)

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This sounds awful, but when we first met him, I didn’t want to get him at all. The last type of dog that I wanted was a shy, timid dog who wouldn’t be fun to have in the home. Fortunately, Sheila urged me to give him a chance, and I’m so grateful I did. You can read our first post about his adoption here.

We honestly have no clue where Butters came from or what his life was like before the dog catcher snatched him up as he wandered along Broadway Avenue. Both of us don’t mind that, though, because it makes it seem like he popped up mysteriously in our lives!

What we do know, though, is that a little bit of love, time, effort, and a warm home helped turn a scared, timid, and sad pup into a healthy and happy dog who loves everyone who walks in the door.

I know many people who want dogs, and when I ask them why they don’t have one, they inevitably talk about their schedules and working late or being busy or something along those lines.

While I think that it’s admirable that they don’t want to bring a dog into their home if they don’t feel that they can care for it, I also want to say that the vast majority of dogs in shelters and foster care right now would happily prefer holding their bladders for an owner who leaves them alone a bit too long every now and then instead of life in a wire cage at an animal shelter at which they do their business whenever they want.

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We’re not perfect dog owners. I run 20 miles a week during some weeks but often fail to find the time to take Butters on a walk of just one mile. There have been times when we’ve left him alone all day, stopped home to change clothes, and left him alone for most of the evening. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten extremely frustrated with him when I’m standing outside with him at 2:00AM in 10 degree weather and he saunters around the yard like it’s 75 degrees and sunny as he tries to find the perfect spot to do his business.

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Butters, Halloween 2010

You know what, though? When we come home at the end of the day for the final time, Butters still welcomes us with the same enthusiasm and joy as he does when he’s only been left for an hour. When I make the time to take Butters on his well-deserved walks, his tongue is hanging out with joy from the moment that we cross the street. And even though I may get cross with him in the evening every now and then, he always jumps up onto my leg when I open the gate the next morning.

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While I urge all of you to treat any animals that you own in the best manner possible, I also want you to know that you don’t have to be a perfect dog owner in order to be a successful dog owner. You don’t have to have a schedule tailor-made to the dog’s needs to provide a shelter dog with a life that seems far away and distant as they watch parades of people march through the shelter and pass by their cages as if they’re invisible. All you need to do is have a loving, patient heart and a willingness to do your best to care for the dog and to and provide for the dog’s material needs.

Raising awareness of the need to adopt shelter dogs is nothing new, but I felt moved to do something after I read that comic. I was outvoted 2-1 in the Fell household when I asked everyone if we should adopt another dog, so encouraging all of you to consider bringing home a forever friend is the next best thing that I can do.

What’s taking you so long?

If you’ve always wanted to join the dog-owning community, today could be the day that you do. Go down to your local shelter, abandon your preconceived notions of what type of dog you might want, and allow one of those precious pups to catch your eye. Both you and the forever friend that you bring home will be glad that you did!

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